The Primacy of the Spiritual Family (Matthew 12:46-50) by Deacon Neil De Arroz

Right let me just take one last sip of coffee because I need it to keep me awake because last Friday, my wife, as most of you know, have given birth to our second son, Elian. Now in the past week, we have been swamped with a lot of errands going back and forth to the hospital, changing diapers, baby stuff which really kept us awake and so it also disabled us so to speak, from other regular household chores that we have had like for example preparing food, thinking about what food to eat, thinking about what restaurant to order if we don’t have time to cook food, so really swamped with baby stuffs. But somehow, the irony is that the less we thought of what to eat, the more food came into our home. A lot of you, if some may have not been aware, there is this thing in this church called the ‘meal train.’ And so right now we have experienced that and daily, our brothers and sisters in Christ would give us food, sometimes more than what we can eat for a day. So if ever we get fat, I know who to blame. But kidding aside, it’s really very touching to see a group of people, a group of individuals from different walks of life, united by one gospel, treating each other as brothers and sisters as a spiritual family.

Now this morning, we will see this from our text as well. And from our text we will see, we will look at the primacy of the spiritual family. So if you have your Bibles with you, please turn with me to our text for this morning and that is in Matthew chapter 12 verses 46 to 50. Matthew 12: 46-50. I’ll read from ESV While he was still speaking to the people, behold, his mother and his brothers stood outside, asking to speak to him. But he replied to the man who told him, “Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?” And stretching out his hand toward his disciples, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.” This is the word of our living God. Now immediately upon hearing this, majority, if not all will understand the text this way. What Jesus is saying His disciples are more important than his biological family. Now in a sense, that is true, but leaving it at that may open misinterpretations. Immediately to those who would misunderstand it, it becomes a hard pill to swallow. And the reason is that wrong questions would spring up in their minds. Is Jesus asking me to leave my family for the spiritual family, the church? Is Jesus saying that if I have to choose, church comes first before family. Now that being said, well I believe it is important that this morning we end this sermon with a clear understanding that would refresh our hope and increase our worship to God our Father. So one important detail we might have missed upon reading that short text is the time, the specific time when our text was happening. Verse 46 tells us that it happened while Jesus was still still speaking to the people. What was He talking about, talking to them about? He was talking to them about the significance of being either with Him or against Him. If you remember, in the past sermons, we have tackled this. Jesus healed a demon-possessed man that is in the same chapter verse 22. Now, this miracle has divided the responses of the people who were able to see. The first response: can this be the son of David? That’s in verse 23, meaning those who had this as their response, maybe have been opened to the fact that Jesus really is the Promised One, the Messiah, the King of Israel that would come from the line of David. The second response, it is only by Beelzebul, the prince of demons, that this man casts out demons. And this is in verse 24. This is the response of the Pharisees. And this response is due to their envy and absolute rejection of who Jesus Christ is. And so Jesus answers them by saying how will Satan’s kingdom stand if he casts himself out? Basically, He was saying that He is not from Satan for He casts out demons. But the Pharisees’ unbelief forces them to say that well because they cannot accept the facts that are right in front of their eyes that Jesus is the promised Messiah. They are forced to answer no you are sent by Satan. That’s why even after signs, after signs, after signs, that they have witnessed after many miracles and teachings that have been laid out in front of them, they will not believe. So when they ask again on our previous chapters a sign, Jesus said there will be none for you except the sign of Jonah. It’s basically Jesus saying, you want a sign.. well wait until my crucifixion where I will conquer death by rising up after 3 days. That is the only sign for you. But even then, would you believe in me, or would you keep rejecting me? Now, why did I have to go all through that what is its relation to our text this morning. And well the relation is this: we know the Pharisees in their unbelief failed to see who Jesus Christ; we know the crowd were having second thoughts and and considering the fact that he might really be the Son of God. But now comes the biological family of Christ. And the question is, do they know who Jesus is? Do they know why he’s here? Whose side are they on? Are they for Christ, with Christ? Or are they against Christ? Will they believe Him or will they reject Him? Now that is an important question because salvation as we know, it is by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone. That goes without saying that if we don’t believe in Christ in who He is, it doesn’t matter if we have blood relations with Him, We will not be saved. So here, Christ introduces the idea of the spiritual family which we will be… I will back and forth be pertaining to the church, okay. The spiritual family. And here, Jesus Christ says the spiritual family is His true family. And this family is categorised or identified by one thing— whoever does the will of His Father in heaven, He says, these are His family. And Jesus Christ says this because of this simple truth. The one who does the will of the Father in Heaven are those who believe in Him and therefore forgiven of their sins by His blood and therefore, what we know now as being saved. The ones… these ones who believe In Christ are also the ones who are covered by His perfect righteousness and therefore will enter the kingdom of heaven and spend eternity with God as sons and daughters. So we have sang a while ago, the Oh Church Arise, which gives us a picture of a group of Christians in the illustration of an army that are standing together waving the banner standing for Christ. But here in our text, we see it’s more than just a group of people that are band together at war and a spiritual warfare though that is true. But we will see here that more than that, there is a family. So we, who believe in Christ are His, are God’s sons and daughters. So we can say or we can ask the question: are we His brother and sister and mother? And to that question, we may answer oh yes, I have repented of my sins and trust in Christ so I consider myself a member of the family of God. But also we will ask this next question: do we see the person next to us who is a believer in Christ as our family? Because if we say that we are part of the family of God then the believer next to you is your brother and sister and mother in Christ. If we fail to see this, then something is wrong with our theology. Particularly with how we see the church. If we say we are kingdom citizens, then we must acknowledge and live out the truth that we are one family.

And that is my message this morning. More Than Just Kingdom Citizens, Christians Are A Family Defined By Their Submission To God’s Will. More than just kingdom citizens Christians are a family, and this family is defined by one thing: it’s not just love for one another per se, but submission to the will of God.

And two things that we must remember is first, our submission to God is due to the fact that we are Renewed Graciously. And I will elaborate that later on our first point, renewed graciously. The second thing to remember is that because we see things in a new light the way we see family life and church life now has Redefined Hierarchy. That’s my second point.

So let’s consider the first point, Renewed Graciously. So from our text, we will see that Jesus said His family are those who do the will of His Father in Heaven. That is the condition. Now one way of getting the text wrong is by having the mindset that oh, I want to be part of God’s family, therefore I need to familiarise myself with His will, with His commands, so that I can obey them and keep them and therefore be part of His family. Now if there is one thing evident in the track record of human history, it is that since the beginning of time, no one has been able to keep the will of God or obey God completely. God had a wonderful design for the family. But since the first family, since Adam and Eve we have which we have read in our scripture reading, starting from them, all other families have been dysfunctional. Dysfunctional in the sense that they are not following the design that is intended by God. From our scripture reading, we see that despite God’s design to dwell with mankind in the garden, because of sin, the family, particularly Adam and Eve hid themselves from God. Instead of speaking the truth to cover up for their sin, they spoke lies and ultimately blaming God for their sins. We see this in how Adam pointed to Eve as if blaming God this is the woman that you gave me and is she is the cause of my sinning therefore, it’s like blaming God. Instead of protecting and caring for the wife, the husband let the wife be tempted and then blamed the wife to save his own skin. Instead of submitting to the husband, the wife decided on her own and thus getting tempted and then the wife dragged her husband along the temptation and together they sinned and then blamed the serpent. Since the fall, the fall of the first family, all other families on earth have fallen as well. All are in sin, therefore no one seeks God as Paul have said. So now, we have a problem. If the condition given by Christ is that His family are those who do the will of God, how can anyone possibly be a member of Christ’s spiritual family if all have sinned and if no one seeks God because of their desire for sin? Now here lies the key, the answer to that Daniel Doriani comments saying I quote: “We do not become the brothers and sisters of Christ by our obedience, rather we identify ourselves as brothers and sisters of Christ by our obedience.” Let me repeat that again. We do not become brothers and sisters of Christ by our obedience but rather we identify ourselves as brothers and sisters of Christ by our obedience. Which basically means that our obedience is not what causes God to adopt us into His family. If that is the case then our salvation is by our works. So how then do we become His children? Well the answer: God effectually calls His children and makes them willing to obey Him. The cause is not anything outside of God; the cause is God. And by His sovereign will, He effectually call His children. Effectually, meaning, if He really has renewed your heart like what we have read, then you will respond in repentance and faith not because He is forcing you to do so, but because He will be making you willing.

Listen to our second London Baptist in chapter 10 paragraph one of effectual calling. It says here— Those whom God hath predestinated unto life, He is pleased in His appointed, and accepted time, effectually to call, by His Word and Spirit, out of that state of sin and death in which they are by nature, to grace and salvation by Jesus Christ. And what happens when this happens? I’ll continue— enlightening their minds spiritually and savingly to understand the things of God; taking away their heart of stone, and giving to them a heart of flesh; renewing their wills, and by His almighty power determining them to that which is good, and effectually drawing them to Jesus Christ; yet so as they come most freely, being made willing by His grace. So again there is no other cause but God Himself. He has predestined us to be effectually called in His appointed time. Our minds, because of the grace of God, now understand the spiritual things. Our eyes are now opened to the gravity of sin. Our eyes are now opened to the holiness of God. We now understand the anger or the wrath of God towards sin which makes us unable to commune with Him by ourselves. So now we also are opened to the grace of God, to the love of God which He has shown us through His Son, our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ. Does He control us like a robot? Definitely not. We are renewed graciously so we come to Him freely as we have been made willing to do so by His grace. So because we have a new heart, we are now we now have the willingness to repent of our sins and put our faith in Jesus Christ. That is not of ourselves, that is of God.

Now let me ask you this: if you can assess yourselves, do you do the will of God? Do you do the will of God? In effect, what I’m asking you is this: do you understand the weight of your sin? Have you repented of it? And have you trusted in Christ for the forgiveness of your sins? Your sin against God equates to eternal punishment. But Christ’s death on the cross equates to forgiveness. If you are only hearing this now my friend, if you are a guest who has not yet come to know Christ, then definitely, this is the time. You, hearing of the forgiveness of God now is your opportunity to repent of your sins and trust in Christ. And like us, you can be assured that there is forgiveness because Christ has fully paid for all of our sins. Now if you are already in Christ, then brethren, have hope and be assured of what you have in Him. What we have in Him through Christ, you and I have received adoption instead of condemnation. Along with it, we have the liberties and privileges of being a children of God. Part of it is that we have access to the throne of grace. Meaning that if ever we do sin, if ever we do fail, we can run to Him and say sorry and have the confidence that we will be forgiven. Have the confidence that we are not just talking to a god, we are talking to a God who is also our Father. We are able to cry out Abba, Father and have the confidence that we will never be turned away and we will be kept until Christ returns. In Christ, we have been made willing to do the will of God and hate sin that separates us from Him. Now the problem is people are forgetful, so sometimes, we forget about the sovereign grace of God. And thus, we are prone to falling in to legalism by trying to work our way into God’s family. And if this is not… Christians are not exempted from this. They say that we we might say that we have been saved by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone, but during the course of our sanctification, sometimes we forget to be dependent on God and trust in our own strength, thinking that we are now clean by ourselves. We may be trapped in practical legalism by doing this. And so the challenge for us is Let Us Live Dependently On God For Everything. Let us not forget to be dependent on God whether it is a… we’re facing a big problem, or a problem that probably we can assess by ourselves that we can handle, just the same. We are to live dependently on God. We are to understand the providence of God. And by providence, I mean that he causes all things to work together for our good. Good things happen, that is the providence of God. Bad things will happen, that is still the providence of God. Because we are His children. And good or bad things that happens, knowing that it is a providence of God, our response to God is nothing but praise. We will praise God whatever happens.

Praise because as His children, when we receive good things, we know that it is He who provides our every need. Praise because as His children, when we are disciplined by trials and not… we can say that we are not being given up to the desires of our flesh. We know that we have a Father who disciplines us. Our response is praise because as His children, we are tested. And in our testing by His Spirit, we are strengthened and our faith grows more and more. So let us live dependently on God for everything because before we even have the willingness to do His will, we have been graciously renewed.

Now my last point is Redefined Hierarchy. Redefined hierarchy. So as we have been graciously renewed, of course our perception on things will change.

We will have a different view on the things happening around us. We might be accustomed to seeing daily activity… more daily activities as sinful that we have not been seeing before because our eyes were blinded. We may be seeing, learning to appreciate things, new things now, because we know that all come from the grace of God. Our perspective on things change when our lives are renewed. Now part of it, is now the hierarchy that we have when it comes to the family life and the church life. Because understanding, this should be the case knowing that we have been saved by God, He did not save us to just live by ourselves alone. We have to understand that when we were saved, we were… we have become part of the church, His body and Christ being our Head. Now aside from the family that we have, that institution that we have, we are now entering another institution which is the church. Now, from our text, we can see that priority was given by Christ to his disciples over His family. That’s why, if you read this. If someone reads this without further trying to understand, somehow people would see it as a bit harsh. Is Christ saying that we are to forsake, replace our families? Seeing how Christ defined who His family was, well we cannot help but face a question first and foremost if we are to dig deeper. If I am to read it again, it says here that behold His mother and His brothers stood outside and what was their goal? They wanted to speak to Him. They wanted to speak to Him though knowing that He is in the middle of a sermon or a teaching.

So we may ask this question: whose side was his family on? Was his family on Christ’s side or were they against Him? Now generally speaking, I’m not saying this finally for we know that not all of his… that there are parts in scripture where we can see that some of his family members have been faithful. His mother, his brother we will see that but generally speaking we can say his family was against him. In Mark 3: 21 this shows his family trying to cease him saying that he is out of his mind. Mark 3: 21. In John 7 verse 1 to5, this shows his brothers, his brothers were in a way mocking him, telling him to show his works to the world so that they may be known. It’s like saying if you really can do these things, well show it off to the world. But really, we can see from John 7: 1-5 it says there that not even them believed in him. So from this text alone we can say generally speaking, Christ’s family were against Him. Christ’s family were against Him. Now given the setting in our text, we can say that His family may have come once again to stop Him in the middle of His teaching. We can say this because historically speaking, they did not again believe In Christ and have attempted a few times before to stop Him. Also we can say this because if they were for Christ, and not against Him and His teachings, then they would not have been standing outside wanting to speak to Him knowing that He was in the middle of a teaching. So basically we can… it’s safe to say that at this point in time, in our text, His family represented a group of people who were against Him, against His beliefs. And so Christ’s response was: “who are my brothers and sisters and mother?” And He presents the person who asked with His disciples. And the defining factor is that the disciples were the ones who do the Father’s will. The disciples were the one who were with Him and not against Him. Now I’m not implying here that Jesus did not love His family, okay. Don’t get me wrong. Jesus did in fact love His family. He has not forsaken His family. If we can see from different parts of the text, He loved His family tremendously. For example in John chap 19: 26-27, at his last moments when he was on the cross, suffering, about to die. One of His thoughts were His mother. He was thinking of how His mother would live right after He died. And so with His mother in mind besides the fact of the excruciating pain that he was dealing with, He turns to John the Beloved and what does He say to John? Behold your mother, meaning in Tagalog, pinapaubaya ni Hesus ang Kanyang ina sa isa sa Kanyang mga pinag- kakatiwalaang apostles si John the Beloved. In 1 Corinthians chapter 15:7, after His resurrection, He did not just appear to the disciples, to the apostles. He appeared to James, His brother. The James who we have come to know now as the author of the book of James which we see in the New Testament and which we have been going back and forth relying upon in our daily reading in our study of the text. Also in Matthew 15: 4-9, we see here how Jesus valued honouring of the. parents. We see Jesus questioning the zeal of the the Pharisees for tradition but neglecting the obedience to God’s law on honouring the parents as it was written in Exodus chapter 21. So Jesus is not teaching us to forsake family. But what is Christ modelling here by stating that His true family is not the one waiting outside, but those who are with Him listening and submitting to His teachings. What was he trying to model? Well He is showing us the Primacy of the spiritual family and the importance of the spiritual matters. Spiritual matters comes first than earthly matters and earthly relations. Being united in Christ due priority must be given to our spiritual family. Like how Christ prioritised the spiritual feeding of His sheep, we must be concerned about the edification of the church, of our brothers and sisters in Christ. Now this calls us to be concerned about a couple of things: number one, we must be concerned about the spiritual walk of our brethren whom we know are being sanctified like us. Second concern is about our future spiritual brethren who have yet to understand the gospel. So that has a connection with evangelism. But the problem appears when our understanding of the church is wrong. If we think our responsibility ends just in the local church, if we see one another as just a regular group of attendee that we see every Lord’s day. If we are content in just knowing each other by name but not by heart, then we have our understanding of the church gravely mistaken.

And so our last challenge my dear brothers and sisters; Consider The Way We Treat Our Fellow Covenant Members. Consider the way we treat our other our fellow covenant members. And if I may add, consider the way that we may be treating or thinking about possible future brethren who have yet to come to faith. Does this mean that we are to forsake our family? Again, definitely not.

That is not what Christ did. In fact He sought the salvation of His family and so must we. But we must know where we stand when our family goes against the word of God. There will be times especially when a family unit is not under the gospel altogether. If a family member is has not yet repented of his sins and trust in God, then there may be problems may arise when it comes to priorities. Does this mean we treat our family members who are not in faith in Christ as enemies? In a sense, yes. What do I mean by that? Enemy in the sense that we will not agree with what they believe especially if we know that what they’re believing and practicing is sin. We must stand in faith. But Christ doesn’t teach us to be hostile to them. So we have to be careful. Even if we disagree with them it doesn’t mean we have to be hostile with them. In fact He teaches us to love our enemies. Moreso, our family members who might disagree with our faith. In Paul’s second pastoral letter to Timothy, he teaches us this principle…though primarily this is for the labour of God for the elders. But the principle applies to each and every Christian and that principle is this: we must have a heart to correct opponents with gentleness that God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of truth and thus being saved. Meaning we have to rebuke others with gentleness and the goal is not to prove ourselves right. The goal is to bring them to God just as we have been brought near to God. Our goal by going against our families is to go against they’re sinning if they are in sin, and pray for their salvation. Our unconverted family members may be our future spiritual brothers and sisters in Christ. We don’t know it and so we must strive to pray for them and share the gospel to them as well. That is putting the priority of the spiritual family ahead of the physical ones.

Now what of our covenant members? Well here is a test for us. Can you name all or how many of our covenant members can you name? If you can name a lot, good job. Now the next question: with those names that you have identified in your head, how many of them do you really know the current struggles? How many among them do you really know what their prayer requests are, what their current praise reports are, what their current struggles are, that they might be needing help with are. If you’ve named a lot of names but have not identified a lot of what they have been praying for, then maybe it’s time that we change it up a bit. We might need to put ourselves out there all the more to get to know our brothers and sisters in Christ. Particularly and most especially those whom we are covenanted with, right. When we do fellowship, let’s have it a goal not just to have good times with them but really have the goal to edify them through godly conversations we have that opportunity always right after our corporate worship in the afternoon. Have the habit of intentionally including them in your prayers. Maybe we can’t include everyone. We have 150 here so we cannot include them in one prayer but maybe we can do them in batches. Pray for each one of us. See how we may, aside from praying, attend to their needs and how we can minister to them. This is to show them we love them. Again, the challenge is that let us consider the way we treat our fellow covenant members. Let us not treat one another as just fellow attendees. Let us really treat each other as brothers and sisters in Christ.

Let me end with this case this story of Daniel Doriani. So he is a pastor, he is also a professor of theology in the Covenant Theological Seminary. And he has this story. I wanted to tell it in my own words but I think it’s best to just read it from his words. He was talking about an experience that he had when his wife had a miscarriage. “After our first two children were born, my wife and I lost a child by miscarriage one night. It was most painful for my wife and most sorrowful for me. Our obstetrician, or OB was out of town, and the physician who replaced him was utterly impersonal.. treating my wife and unborn child like slabs of flesh. I briefly left the room, upset at 6:00 a.m. As I walked out I saw a good friend in a nearby waiting area. The neighbours who had taken our older children at 3:00 a.m. decided to call him so that he would pray for us. He did pray but also he got dressed, came to the hospital and waited by our room for two hours, guessing that he might see us in a certain hallway and comfort us for a moment. Knowing our families lived far away, he waited in silence in the middle of the night so that he might become family for us. And Daniel Doriani ended with this: We live in a scattered age. People move, families break apart. We need to heed the words of Jesus: who is my mother and father, our sisters and brothers? Whoever does the will of our father is our mother and father, our sisters and brother. Let us so live that all might know the peace and blessing of life in a good family. So in summary, our text is not just teaching about forsaking and replacing the physical family that we have with the church. Our text teaches us about the primacy of the church and the faithful teachings in it which in certain situations may include our physical families as well. But in times when our physical families go against the will of God, we must be steadfast in faith and know what comes first. We must stand by the word of God but never cease to have the heart to seek after our family’s salvation. We must also remember that we were once lost as they were. We must also commit to really know our brethren that we may show our love for them by being able to pray for them, minister to them, attend to their needs. In the end, Christians are sinners, but we are sinners that have been brought near to God through the blood of Christ.

From strangers, we have been forgiven and renewed to be not just kingdom citizens but His children working together to advance His kingdom.

Let us all pray. Dear God and with gracious hearts calling You our heavenly Father, thank You for this day which You have set apart for us, for our benefit that we may be reminded by Your love, by Your grace through Your word. Lord, thank You for reminding us that we are part of Your family not because of what we can do but because of Your grace which You have shown us by sending Your Son Jesus to pay the penalty for our sins and cover us in His righteousness when He lived the perfect life. May that be the source of our strength and confidence when we approach You.. approaching You not just a God but also as a Father.

Thank You also that You have not just given us Your Son, You have given us one another, brothers and sisters in Christ united by the gospel. That we may express the love which You have shown us to the people around us. That we may pray for them and minister to them. As we continue our lives here on Earth, may we continue it in in such a way that we have this understanding that the church is not just an organisation. It’s not just a movement. It is your family. We are part of this family and therefore we have to love this family. Father may we.. strengthen us Lord as we continue the rest of the day. May everything that we do be pleasing in Your eyes. Strengthen us with your Holy Spirit that we may do only the things that You want us and call us to do. Father we love You. All glory is Yours Almighty Father in Jesus’ Name we pray, amen.

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